It's time for another question, this one from reader D.J. of Santa Barbara. D.J. asked the following question: "I know you've handled a ton of coins in your career. What are some of the coins that you haven't handled?" Ahh...thanks, D.J. Make me look like a rookie and tell you what I haven't handled; not all the great coins I've handled! But it's a good question and one that I think will be informative for collectors trying to determine what's really rare. Not to mention the fact that it will prove impossible for me not to brag a bit and list some of what I have handled!
Looking back over the years, I've pretty much done it all, seen it all, and sold it all in the area of gold dollars. There are no business strike issues that I haven't owned, and I can't think of more than one or two dates that I haven't had multiple owned Proof examples.
The Big Kahuna amongst gold dollars is, of course, the 1849-C Open Wreath of which just four or five are known. I have owned two of these including the second finest and the worst. The most famous gold dollar is the 1861-D. I'd say that I've handled at least 20 (I once owned three at one time!), including a number in Uncirculated.
There are a few gold dollars that, as condition rarities, have proven to be elusive. I don't think I've owned more than two or three really nice 1854-S dollars, and the same holds true with the overlooked San Francisco issues from 1857, 1858, and 1859.
The highest-grade gold dollar that I've owned is MS68; I've seen a few MS69 pieces but have yet to own one and have never been lucky enough to "make" one when submitting coins to PCGS or NGC.
I've had the honor of working on a number of great quarter eagle sets over the years, so this is a denomination that I've handled every single issue.
There are some really rare early quarter eagles and the rarest is the 1804 13 star reverse. I bought what is among the finest known out of auction a few years ago and this was the first example of this variety that I had handled. Two other issues that I haven't owned more than a few of are the 1806/5 and the 1834. According to my records, I've owned just three of the former and two of the latter.
There are three great rarities in the Liberty Head quarter eagle series: the 1841, the 1854-S, and the 1863. I've been fortunate to own lots of these; more than just about any other coin dealer, in fact.
Of the 15 or so known 1841 quarter eagles, I have owned five or six different coins, including two of the rare Proofs. I have always loved the 1854-S and can think of at least five different examples that I've owned out of the 13 to 15 known. The Proof-only 1863 has a surviving population of maybe 20 or so pieces; I can remember five different pieces that I've owned ranging in grade from PR60 to PR66.
There are actually a few Liberty Head quarter eagles that I've never owned in Uncirculated. One is the 1840-D, another is the 1855-D. Surprisingly, I haven't had an 1862-S in Mint State either. However, I have owned two of the three known 1864's in Uncirculated, and two of the rare 1865's as well.
I have a few gaps in the Proof Liberty Head quarter eagles. Other than the 1841, the earliest Proof Liberty Head I've owned is an 1858. There are probably two or three dates from the 1860's and 1870's that have eluded me; not necessarily because they are extreme rarities but more out of circumstance. One of these is the 1861 and another is the 1872.
I've liked Three Dollar gold pieces for many years and between the Jewell Collection, Horseshoe Collection, and South Texas Collection, I've owned many Condition Census pieces.
There is one date that I've not owned: the 1870-S which is unique. Other than that, the date I've owned the fewest of is the Proof-only 1875; I can only recall owning two.
There are two Three Dollar gold pieces that I haven't owned in Uncirculated: the 1855-S and the 1860-S. Only three or four properly graded Uncirculated examples are known of each and, for whatever reason, I still haven't had the opportunity to buy one.
The highest graded Three Dollar gold piece I have owned is an MS67. I've owned oodles of MS65's and a decent number of MS66's but just a few MS67 examples.
I can think of just two Proofs of this design that I haven't owned: the 1855 and the 1856. With many of the low mintage dates from the 1860's and 1870's I don't think I've owned more than one or two in my career.
The denomination that has the most coins that I've never owned is the half eagle. The area that I have a number of gaps in is the early, pre-1834 issues.
I've never owned a 1798 Small Eagle and, of course, neither the 1797 Heraldic Eagle with 15 or 16 stars (both are unique). I've also never owned an 1810 Large Date, Small 5 although I've had the chance to purchase at least three or four.
There are a number of Fat Head half eagles that have eluded me. These are the 1815, the 1822, the 1825/4, the 1828/7, 1829 Small Date, and 1832 Curved Base 2. All of these are extremely rare although I have had the chance over the last decade to purchase an 1815, an 1825/4, and an 1829 Small Date.
There is just a single Liberty Head half eagle that I've never owned. Care to venture a guess? The answer is the exceedingly rare 1854-S of which just three are known.
What dates in this series have I never owned in Uncirculated? While not complete, the list certainly includes the 1842 Large Letters, 1847-O, 1858-S, 1861-S, 1863, 1864-S, 1867-S, 1872-CC, 1875, 1877-CC, and 1878-CC.
The two available dates in this series that I have owned the least number of coins is probably the 1864-S and the 1875. Its been quite a few years since I've seen an 1875 business strike that I liked, and I can recall just two or three 1864-S half eagles that I've had in the last decade+.
There is one early eagle that I've never handled: the 1795 with nine leaves below the wing. Its not that I haven't had the chance; this variety has just never really appealed to me all that much.
I've owned multiple examples of every Liberty Head eagle with the exception of the 1875; I've owned just two and none since the Dallas Bank collection example that I bought in 2001.
There are a host of issues in this series that I haven't had in Uncirculated; mainly because there are a host of issues in this series that don't exist in Uncirculated. But I can think of numerous issues that I have only owned one or two " really nice" pieces: dates like the 1841-O, 1843, 1844, 1849-O, 1852-O, 1855-S, 1858, 1858-S, etc. And that's just up through 1858!
I'm proud to say that I've owned every regular issue business strike Liberty Head double eagle at one time or another. This includes multiple examples of all the rare Type One issues such as the 1854-O, 1856-O, 1861-S Paquet Reverse and the 1866-S No Motto.
I'd like to think that I've handled as many 1870-CC double eagles as any active dealer. Looking through my records, I see that I've sold at least eight of then in the last 12 years.
The three double eagles that I've handled the fewest of are probably the 1883, 1884, and 1887. These are all Proof-only issues and as someone who has traditionally been a stronger buyer of business strikes than Proofs it seems inevitable that I'd pass on opportunities to own these coin. I've only owned one 1884 and two 1883's
One of the things that's great about being a serious coin dealer is that you get to handle serious coins. I've been lucky over the last two+decades to handle many great 18th and 19th century United States gold coins, and I look forward to handling many more during the next two decades.